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How to Get Started in Cyber-Security

How to Get Started in Cyber-Security

Daniel Horowitz
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Both cyber attacks and cybercrime continue to rise in tandem with the growing use of technology. In fact, the FBI reported a 300% increase in cybercrime at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. As a result, many companies and government institutions began to beef up their cybersecurity initiatives.
The time is now for anyone who wants to start their cyber-security career. Many entities are hiring cyber-security experts to help protect sensitive customer data, government systems, databases, and more. If this sounds like the career for you, here is what you need to know when getting into cyber-security.

What skills do you need to start a cyber-security career?

cyber-security skills are a combination of research and analytical thinking. You’ll need to be methodical and detail-oriented. But you also need soft skills, such as effective communication and the ability to distill complex data into simplified concepts for customers, stakeholders, and other employees.
You'll also want to improve on more technical skills, including your understanding of the architecture, administration, and management of operating systems (Windows, Linux, etc.) Plus, it’s great to be familiar with common programming languages such as Java, C++, and Python.

Entry-level cyber-security jobs

There are many ways to get started in cyber-security. You can start to narrow down your cyber-security pathway based on your interests and the role’s key responsibilities and tasks.
Given that there are more than 3.5 million open positions within the industry, it’s the perfect time to start exploring your options. Here are some of the main roles to consider when you’re looking into a cybersecurity career.
Man Working On Laptop

1. Security analyst

A security analyst role is the most commonly available role for non-specialized, entry-level cybersecurity professionals. A cyber-security analyst is involved in the day-to-day operations of planning and carrying out security measures for an organization's operations center or IT team.
These analysts are also involved in monitoring, data breach prevention, and securing data in the event of a data breach. This role requires individuals to keep up with the latest technology and training in security, and it may involve active threat hunting and incident reporting, depending on your organization.

2. Malware researcher

A malware researcher is a more specialized pathway. The role requires strong analytical skills and the ability to work with and examine malicious software such as bots, worms, and Trojans. Once a malware researcher analyzes a threat, you need to be able to reverse-engineer the malware in order to understand how it works and how to detect it.
The role requires more technical knowledge than other entry-level cyber-security jobs, so you’ll need some programming knowledge (particularly C++). This is a great fit if you love puzzle solving and you’re comfortable with working independently.
Malware researcher is an excellent jumping-off point, and it can translate well into careers like senior threat analyst, security architect, or even CISO (chief information security officer) down the road.

3. Digital forensics investigator

A digital forensics investigator, or forensics analyst, focuses specifically on crime. You’ll work with law enforcement and/or private companies to help retrieve information from computers and other data storage devices. The process often involves working with physically damaged or otherwise compromised devices, like those with hacks or viruses. While this position is most commonly found in law enforcement departments, private companies are starting to hire for this role, too.
If you’re interested in this position, you must have a strong working knowledge of computer hardware and software, including hard drives, networking, and encryption. You also need to know how to dismantle and reconstruct devices both physically and digitally.

4. Penetration tester

The role of a penetration tester is to simulate a cyber attack in order to find structural weaknesses in a company's security. Most penetration testers go beyond just looking at vulnerabilities as they work to show companies how criminals exploit those same weaknesses, highlighting the potential repercussions of those exploits.
To do this, testers utilize existing hacking tools and strategies, but they’re also expected to devise their own strategies to get around an organization's security apparatus. When performing the simulated cyber attack, penetration testers document their actions in detailed reports to show their company exactly how and to what degree they were able to bypass security.
The key skills for a penetration tester include a strong knowledge of security vulnerabilities, broad scripting and coding knowledge, proficiency in various operating systems, and an advanced understanding of networking and network protocols like TCP/IP, UDP, ARP, DNS, and DHCP.

How to get experience in cyber-security

Experience counts in a cyber-security career. Because it’s such an advanced and emerging field, it’s important to have a 4-year bachelor’s degree in either cyber-security or a related field such as information technology or computer science.

Hacking challenges and certifications

However, a formal education isn’t the be-all, end-all. As an aspiring cyber-security pro, you can gain practical hands-on experience through online resources and participating in hacking challenges. You can also pursue online certifications with organizations like CompTIA. This will broaden your knowledge of the industry and allow you to specialize in certain roles.

Work in a related field

The number-one thing you can do to gain experience? Get a job in a related industry. Many people start in IT roles such as systems administrator, computer programmer, and network operations in order to gain the appropriate technical chops. To narrow down your options within IT, make sure that the role you pursue will give you some security-related experience.

Knowledge is power

You can improve your chances of success by being well-versed in general IT fundamentals. From there, increase your command of protocols such as physical security, networks, server equipment, and enterprise storage. Armed with the right knowledge, you’ll be more prepared for an entry-level cyber-security role.

Equipment you need for getting into cyber-security

To start your cyber-security career, it is important to invest in the appropriate equipment. Start by making sure you have an excellent laptop or desktop PC, as well as the right accessories, such as a mouse, keyboard, and headset.

Laptops and desktop PCs

When choosing a security-minded laptop, it’s best to get started with a device that takes security as seriously as you do. For instance, look for a laptop that comes with a built-in kill switch for its webcam, which makes it unhackable.
Also, it needs to have the power necessary to run the programs associated with cyber-security. HP has many great laptops that fit the bill, with the HP EliteBook 840 G8 notebook PC being a clear standout.
EliteBook 840
If you prefer to work from a desktop, take a look at the HP Z4 G4 workstation. This powerhouse is more than capable of meeting computing performance requirements, and it has advanced security features such as HP Client Security Suite Gen3, HP Sure Start Gen3, and features a self-healing BIOS.
HP Z4 G4 workstation

Accessories

You also want to invest in accessories to match the performance of your devices. There are plenty of stellar accessories to choose from, including the HP OMEN Vector wireless mouse for smooth scrolling, the HP wireless premium keyboard for comfortable typing and code entry, and the HP OMEN Headset 800 for crystal-clear communication.
Omen Accessories

Summary

Breaking into the cyber-security industry can seem daunting when you look at the necessary skills and knowledge. However, once you choose your preferred role, you can narrow your focus to prioritize exactly what you need to learn to get started, including specific programming languages, the ins and outs of modern tech devices, and more.
Your interests will set you up to train toward an innovative and rewarding career in a field that’s growing, varied, and necessary for everyone.
About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.

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